Small Business Survival: The Real Risks with Viral Success

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday August 28th, 2014 | 0 Comments

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Viral success is the dream of just about every small business these days. Whether the business model is a website where users can upload videos for free, or a special app that gives people the ability to share the cost of a rental car, the idea of overnight success is just plain intoxicating.

And the advent of the sharing economy hasn’t helped. The successes of “collaborative consumption” companies have been staggering. Seven-year-old Uber, which these days is leading a popular movement to block more California regulation of car-sharing services, has been valued at $17 billion.  Six-year-old accommodations facilitator Airbnb last April successfully closed talks with TPG for additional capital that raised its value to $10 billion, reportedly exceeding the value of Hyatt Hotels. Smaller startups like FlightCar, MonkeyParking and a variety of crowdsharing models, while not as spectacular in their commercial success have also seen the glory of overnight stardom that comes from offering something truly disruptive and unexpectedly cool.

And then there are those startups that have also experienced the challenges that come with overnight growth; challenges that in some cases have pitted them against local bylaws and attracted the attention of government regulators. In some cases, customer data became subject to court subpoenas. In more than one case, the very legality of the company’s right to operate became a contentious issue that put the privacy of its users at potential risk.

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Towards a Greener Beer: Craft Brewer Rolls Out the Evercan

Michael Kourabas
| Thursday August 28th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Evercan-1st-ed-front-186x300As any regular reader of this site knows, sustainability and beer are two things the TriplePundit community takes very seriously.  This is, after all, the place that brought you 2012’s Green Brewhaha, an exhaustive series on the sustainability movement in the brewing industry.  So, it goes without saying that when a craft brewer begins packaging its beer in a can made of almost-entirely recycled aluminum, it is big news here; it should also be big news to the rest of the beverage industry.

The Red Hare partnership

In April, Georgia-based craft beer manufacturer, Red Hare Brewing Co., announced that it was partnering with the multinational aluminum producer Novelis, to package its beer in an “almost-entirely recycled” aluminum can.  Developed by Novelis in 2013, the “evercan” is the only aluminum can sheet containing at least 90 percent recycled content — nearly double the amount of recycled material in a standard aluminum can.  And this is just the beta version.  According to Novelis’ chief sustainability officer, the company aims to be at 100 percent recycled content within a few years.  Last week, Red Hare began rolling out the new packaging.

When Novelis was searching for evercan buyers, Red Hare seemed a natural partner.  For one, Red Hare is small enough for a test run.  (Illustrative of the company’s size, despite being a dedicated craft beer drinker I had never before heard of Red Hare and, according to the beer locating website Beer Menus, the nearest Red Hare purveyor is some 400 miles away.  So a plea to Red Hare: ship the evercan to New Orleans distributors!  We’re a drinking — and caring — city!)  For another, Red Hare has been can-only since the company’s inception in 2011.  As Novelis described it, Red Hare is a “small company with big ideas.”  (Of course, both companies also happen to be headquartered in the Atlanta, Georgia area.)

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EV Drive: Behind the Wheel of the 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf

Mary Mazzoni
| Thursday August 28th, 2014 | 16 Comments

exterior silverOn Monday, I headed out to scenic Middleburg, Virginia for the 2015 Volkswagen Full-Line Drive.

As the name implies, the event showcased Volkswagen‘s full vehicle portfolio, from the sporty Passat to the classic Jetta, but one thing in particular got me excited: Our group of journalists and bloggers was the first in the world to hop behind the wheel of the 2015 e-Golf, Volkswagen’s first fully-electric vehicle for the U.S. market.

As the morning sun basked across the Virginia countryside, I couldn’t wait to hit the road. Read on for an up-close look at the e-Golf, which is set to hit the market in November.

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On the EDGE: Gender Equality Certification

Leon Kaye | Thursday August 28th, 2014 | 0 Comments
EDGE, Gender Equality, Gender Equality certification, diversity, Leon Kaye, ethical certifications

EDGE is a new gender equality certification standard

Due to more consumers’ demands for transparency about the products they buy — and the fact social media can expose the difference between what companies say publicly and what goes on from the shop floors to the boardrooms — shopping and sourcing ethically is easier (or more confusing) than ever before. We at Triple Pundit have long traced the journey of ethical certifications such as fair trade, B Corporations and the controversial labeling of GMO and non-GMO products. Now consumers concerned about how women are treated in the workplace, as well as the global disparity between men’s and women’s wages, among other disparities, can consider gender equality when making purchasing decisions.

Switzerland-based EDGE (the Global Business Certification Standard for Business Equality) is banking its gender equality certification will resonate with businesses and consumers. Its mission is simple: to engage corporations all over the world in creating equal opportunities for both men and women within the workplace. Currently the organization is working with 60 companies in 14 various sectors on all continents.

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Coconuts and Sustainable Development: Adding Value to a Wasted Resource

| Thursday August 28th, 2014 | 1 Comment

amazing_fun_weird_cool_three-wheeler-coconut-husk_20090725130154108 Imitating nature’s way of letting nothing to go to waste, materials researchers-turned-entrepreneurs are using the humble coconut husk to manufacture an expanding variety of useful, environmentally friendly products.

While husks are often discarded, they can be put to a variety of uses, such as binder-less particle board, sustainable packing material, automotive trunk liners and electric car battery pack covers. Additional applications include farm erosion netting, activated charcoal filters, potting materials and wall planters.

Also known as coir, the history of using coconut husks to manufacture a variety of natural bio-products goes back thousands of years. Today, it’s progressing hand-in-hand with an inclusive model of international development centered on sustainable local market and business development, job creation and the opening up of new opportunities that could raise the living standards of millions of families living in the tropics.

Young research-driven companies in Texas, such as Essentium Materials in College Station, embody social-enterprise and triple-bottom-line values in which ethics and justice underpin environmentally, socially and economically sustainable product and business development.

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What Can a School Teach Us about Organizational Agility?

Sarah Lozanova | Thursday August 28th, 2014 | 6 Comments

Editor’s Note: This is the final post in a series of three on dynamic governance, a new way to run either for-profit companies or nonprofit organizations.

governance Rainbow Community School is a private alternative school in Asheville, North Carolina, serving children from preschool through eighth grade. Lessons and staff meetings begin with centering – giving an opportunity to turn inward to find wisdom and personal power. The school uses positive discipline, an approach that builds self-esteem and empowers children to develop self-control and responsibility.

Although the school has incorporated holistic education throughout its 35-year history, the management hasn’t always been as cohesive as it is today. “When I came in 2007, the school was 30 years old, had been through a low point or two, and was definitely in one of the lower points in its history,” explains Renee Owen, executive director of the school. “It was struggling for a few years … The board was a managing board and the executive director didn’t have clear power. The board didn’t think the executive director was competent and there was a lot of toxicity.”

Four years ago, a parent urged Owen to look into dynamic governance. “John Buck [consultant and CEO of The Sociocracy Consulting Group] came and did an introduction to dynamic governance for a few of us and we were really intrigued and inspired. We decided to pilot it with the faculty. I couldn’t believe how quickly it transformed everything.”

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Energy-Coffee Wastewater Project Delivers Multiple Benefits in Central America

| Thursday August 28th, 2014 | 0 Comments

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIntegrated resource management based on principles of sustainability is touted as a means of addressing numerous and varied challenges. Ecosystems and natural resource degradation, greenhouse gas emissions, and issues of social and economic justice are prominent among them. UTZ Certified has been putting these claims to the test with its Energy from Coffee Wastewater project.

Launched in 2010 in partnership with coffee farmers and communities in Central America, the Energy from Coffee Wastewater project proves that it’s possible to generate renewable energy, tackle climate change, protect water resources, and raise locals’ health and living standards at the same time.

Custom-built coffee wastewater and solid waste treatment systems have been installed at eight coffee farms in Nicaragua, 10 in Honduras and one in Guatemala as part of the project. The positive impact on over 5,000 people living in these communities has been substantial enough for UTZ Certified to reproduce the initiative in other countries.

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Study: LEED Certified Hotels Achieve ‘Superior Financial Performance’

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday August 28th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Aria_hotel_LEED_Cygnusloop99

Hotel Aria in Las Vegas is the country’s largest LEED-certified hotel and an exception to the study’s finding of small-sized LEED hotels.

Researchers have long debated whether LEED certification provides a business advantage for hotels and motels, particularly in the U.S. Various studies have been conducted through the years that suggest that eco-certification programs do make a difference, particularly when it comes to customer patronage. Will customers seek out eco-certified accommodations, and can that loyalty be translated into higher revenue for the hotel or motel?

Last year we reported on Cornell University’s study of eco-certification of lodgings as a whole. The study, Hotel Sustainability: Financial Analysis Shines a Cautious Green Light, found that there were benefits to eco-certification, but they varied widely enough to be completely conclusive. The research also focused on results from a particular stream of data, specifically information obtained from Travelocity. In other words, it examined the outcome of eco-certified lodgings when promoted to a specific cost- and quality-conscious customer group.

This year’s report drills down a bit more, by focusing specifically on U.S. hotels that received LEED-certification. The three authors, Matthew C. Walsman, Rohit Verma and Suresh Muthulingam, looked at the revenue earned by LEED-certified hotels versus non-LEED hotels.

What they found was that “certified hotels obtained superior financial performance as compared to their non-certified competitors.”

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Stories and Beer: Positive Mobile Impact

Marissa Rosen
| Thursday August 28th, 2014 | 0 Comments

sb-logos-august-2014

It’s time for another Stories and Beer Fireside Chat on Thursday, August 28 at 6:30pm Pacific (9:30 Eastern) at the Impact HUB San Francisco – and online via web cam. Register here or watch online!

If you missed the live event, watch it here:

What do deforestation and labor rights have in common? What does your old mobile phone have to do with either? It turns out, a lot.  Come learn from three innovative organizations at August’s “Stories and Beer” about how mobile technologies,  including discarded phones, are being used to address a myriad of social and environmental problems.

Better World Wireless is a one-to-one wireless provider that gives a person in need a free mobile device loaded with content to help break the cycle of poverty and empower his or her life. Rainforest Connection transforms recycled cell phones into solar-powered listening devices that can monitor and pinpoint chainsaw activity at great distance – and contact authorities who can stop illegal logging. LaborVoices provides a warning system for labor violations based on direct feedback from workers by repeatedly polling workers through their mobile phones.

TriplePundit’s Founder, Nick Aster, will be leading a conversation with Better World’s Matt Bauer, Rainforest Connection’s Nishant Bagadia and Labor Voices’ Kohl Gill.  We’ll be talking about each of their enterprises but also about the intersection of mobile services and sustainability. Most of the time will be an open Q&A with the audience, so come prepared! This event is free to HUB members, otherwise $15, and you can also watch live online (details will be posted on the day of the event on TriplePundit’s front page.

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Validating the Value of Zero Waste

3p Contributor | Wednesday August 27th, 2014 | 1 Comment

2441584034_a1576d2be9_zBy Scot Case

The race to make defensible zero waste claims is well underway.

Lots of organizations, from city governments and universities to sporting venues and events to manufacturers and retailers, are pledging to drastically reduce or even eliminate any waste going to landfill.

Examples include:

  • Retailers: Walmart, Crate & Barrel, REI and other retailers have pledged to drastically reduce or even eliminate any waste going to landfill.

Some organizations are going beyond public pledges and having their zero waste and waste diversion claims certified by an independent, third-party certification authority like UL Environment.

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Nobel Economists Gather to Discuss Direction of World Economy

RP Siegel | Wednesday August 27th, 2014 | 3 Comments

CompassA captain steers his ship using a compass. If the compass has become magnetized and no longer points north, the ship is likely to get lost. Likewise, governments use metrics and indicators to adjust policy to try and steer their economies. They depend on these metrics for reliable and meaningful guidance toward the direction that serves the greater good.

Gross domestic product (GDP), which measures the overall level of economic activity, has been the key indicator of growth which has long been considered the goal of economic policy. In recent years though, with multiple crises impinging on our world, many of which were created by ourselves, thoughtful people have suggested that maybe our course needs correction and maybe GDP growth no longer reflects what is most needed in our quest for economic progress. What kind of world are we striving for, and what measures can help us identify whether we are moving closer or further away from that goal?

What is it exactly that we are trying to grow? To what extent does GDP growth measure well-being, and what other metrics might more accurately reflect it?

The fact is, GDP makes no distinction between activities that enhance quality of life and those that diminish it. For example, expenditures related to recovery from a disaster or a crime are included as part of GDP, while all activities that take place within households, as well as actions by volunteers are excluded. It also includes the depletion of natural capital as income.

In 1972, Bhutan made Gross National Happiness its key indicator. Results are compiled by means of a nationwide survey.

Last week, a group of Nobel prize-winning economists met, for the fifth time, in the German town of Lindau near the Austrian and Swiss border. This year’s meeting featured a special guest, German chancellor Andrea Merkel. Joining the notables are young economists from 80 countries, hoping to learn, become inspired, and perhaps reflect deeply on what role their science might play in shaping the future.

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Whole Foods’ Sale of Rabbit Meat Is a Big Pet Peeve to Some

Leon Kaye | Wednesday August 27th, 2014 | 24 Comments
Rabbit meat, whole foods, sustainable meat, Leon Kaye, rabbits, eating rabbits, factory farms

Rabbit meat looks and tastes like chicken.

In case you are unaware, Whole Foods is now selling rabbit meat at a limited number of stores across the United States. As far as more sustainable meat goes, rabbit is one of the better options (along with lamb) — especially considering the oft-quoted statistics suggesting the global meat industry is a larger greenhouse gas emitter than the world’s entire transportation sector. For urban and rural dwellers, rabbit is a far more efficient way to score protein than beef — and they will not wake your neighbors at the crack of dawn. Even the environmental blog Grist, which sniffs at many claims about “sustainability,” has sung the praises of raising rabbit meat.

But the thought of rabbit meat grilled, pan-fried or roasted (goes well with parsnips and baby potatoes) does not make everyone’s mouth water. As the Atlantic recently pointed out, New York’s Union Square Whole Foods has attracted a small but passionate crowd that wants more consumers to boycott the retailer for killing rabbits. One of the more emotional arguments against raising rabbits for meats is that, after all, they are pets.

But there is a problem with that argument: Whole Foods is not killing pets, but is sourcing meat from farms that meet what the company describes as rigorous standards.

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Dropcountr Launches a New App to Manage Water Usage

| Wednesday August 27th, 2014 | 0 Comments
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Dropcountr app showing water usage information

Despite the 3-year-old drought in the western U.S. and pleas from California Gov. Jerry Brown to conserve 20 percent more water, water use has instead risen by 1 percent in the state. This disappointing outcome illustrates that voluntary reductions have so far proved to be ineffective. Yet a contributing factor could be that consumers are not without good intentions, but rather are lacking the proper tools to do the right thing. As the saying goes, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” and traditionally, the tools for consumers to measure their water use have been pretty weak.

Typically, a bill from the water utility arrives in the mailbox showing a three-month history of water usage data in terms of “units,” which as a measure is hard for the average householder to visualize. And in any case, the bill doesn’t allow an easy assessment as to whether those units used were reasonable or excessive.

Addressing this knowledge gap, Redwood City, California-based startup Dropcountr is about to launch its service to provide tools to both consumers and utilities in a clear and visual format — which will allow this scarce resource to be better managed. I recently spoke to Dropcountr’s CEO, Robb Barnitt, to learn more about its service and how it might prompt more efficient use of water.

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CSR Report Review: Salesforce.com and Cloud Computing Sustainability

Leon Kaye | Wednesday August 27th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Salesforce com, cloud computing, operational efficiency, carbon footprint, renewable energy credits, green building, LEED, Leon Kaye, sustainability, sustainability report

SalesForce.com released its most recent sustainability report

There will always be debate about whether having more and more of our data on the cloud is really more sustainable in the long run, but one company making a difference in this space is Salesforce.com. On the business side, it is easy to argue this San Francisco-based company has had a beneficial impact on customer relationship management (CRM) systems. In recent years the US$4 billion company has become a major force in the cloud-computing sector, and is frequently touted for both being a truly innovative company as well as for its sustainability agenda. But the company is making a difference in communities and on corporate responsibility issues as well.

To that end, Salesforce.com recently released its latest sustainability report. A lot of what the report discusses is framed over how the company has evolved since its founding 15 years ago, and it can offer its peer companies, in Silicon Valley and beyond, ideas on how to become a more responsible and efficient operation.

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Italian Scientists Turn Food Waste Into Bioplastics

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday August 27th, 2014 | 0 Comments

food waste Food waste causes a range of environmental problems when left to rot in a landfill. A staggering amount, 1.3 billion tons of food, is wasted globally every year, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The carbon footprint of all that wasted food is estimated at 3.3 billion tons of carbon equivalent.

Wasted food also means wasted water. The amount of water used to produce food that is wasted is equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River or three times the volume of Lake Geneva. That is not good at any time — but becomes particularly poignant during a time when the entire state of California is in its third year of drought. There is also an economic cost to food waste — $750 billion a year.

On to another problem: Conventional plastic is made from petroleum, a fossil fuel, and contributes to climate change. Bioplastics are made from plant material and are an alternative to conventional plastic. However, the multiple steps needed to produce bioplastics mean more energy is needed. And the crops used to produce them, like corn, are probably better suited for human consumption.

As a solution, a group of scientists at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Genova, Italy, are working on ways to create bioplastic from food waste. Their results were published earlier this summer in American Chemical Society’s (ACS) journal Macromolecules.

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